Breathing for Singing

breathing for singing - barbara-breathing

Breathing for singing is a different kind of breath from our everyday speech breath.

The most obvious difference is that when you take a breath to sing, you know that there is a certain length of time that you must (ideally) sustain your breath in support of vocal/musical sound.

While we do this to some degree when we speak, there is not the same conscious attention given to the words we speak as there is to the words we intend to sing. Breathing for singing requires a certain amount of "holding back" the stream of air.

Some singers have problems with sustaining longer phrases because they let the air in their lungs flow out too fast. Their sound becomes airy - lacks focus - and they struggle to sing to the ends of phrases that are of medium (or even, short) length.

As they learn to breathe better, and as the whole voice works better, then breathing becomes less of an issue.


(NOTE: I know a few very successful singers who appear to be breathing well and fully, but still cannot sing through medium-length phrases with ease. This MAY have something to do with a lack of clean closure of the vocal cords. Or there may be other issues going on that are not easy to observe.)

I have written about ways to improve many common breathing difficulties. And here is a video where I demonstrate a good, simple breathing exercise to help develop the skill of meting out your breath more evenly and slowly. (The second video - just below this one - will give you a very unique take on breathing for singing.)


What I want to write about today regarding breathing for singing are the less obvious, but hugely important things that happen when you take a breath to sing a musical phrase. I believe that if you do this emotional step well, with focus and clear intention:
1. You breathe better (more fully and deeper) 2. You can bring a lot more power and control to your breath and thus to your singing and performance.

diaphramatic breathing - sun-on-beach

See the brief video below to hear and watch what I mean by taking a breath of deep intention.... (I use my own performance as an example so that I do not have gain rights to use other people`s creative work. But you will observe these kinds of things in all good singers.)


You are bathing in a sea of musical information when you prepare to sing;
- your pianist is playing the intro or your group is starting to play
- you are getting into the rhythmic feel
- your audience is watching you
- your song(s) are held - waiting - inside you

- and your lyrics are in your mind, ready to form words...


Part of bringing more power to the performance of your song is the strength of emotion that you bring to the breath. Let me show you what I mean in this video.

This is a short clip of a performance that comes at the end of the Mexican song called, "Somos Novios."

I breathe four times in these final phrases. The first three are quiet, soft-emotion breaths.

The fourth breath is in preparation for a long held finishing note. Each breath needs to convey the strong and deep emotion of romantic love. The last breath also has to sculpt the end of a highly emotive song.

You can see the care and time that I take with the second breath. I am beginning to set up the entry to the last phrase by drawing people in to a long, quiet moment of silent breathing... (You can do this, too!)

These are small, but important ways that singers use breathing to create atmosphere and give meaning and power to songs.

I also believe that as you bring more intention to your breathing for singing, the muscles of your breathing also improve. Your breath gets longer and deeper in reaction to your desire to "spin" emotional tone...

I wish you all greater and greater breathing for singing!

Barbara Lewis Music

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